One Year Off

On a rare solo meander through the nonfiction stacks at my library, I pulled out this book by David Elliot Cohen: One Year Off: Leaving It All Behind For a Round-the-World Journey with Our Children (1999). As warning bells sounded in my head (such as, hey, you shouldn’t even be reading about stuff that might make you envious), I decided to read it. Because I have three kids. Because I like round-the-world adventures. Because it sounded brave.

And it was brave! And funny. And poignant. David Elliot Cohen, his wife, their nanny, and their three children aged 3, 7, and 8, took off for places like Zimbabwe, Paris, Australia, Thailand, and Italy. They failed at homeschooling, but really, what was this for the kids except a giant history and social studies unit? And although they were worried about spending so much time together as a family, they pulled through. They survived each other. They became closer!

I ended up liking this book just for its own merits. But the analytical part of me wonders why I really picked it up. I think I know that I will never take trips around the world. It’s quite possible I will never fly in an airplane (haven’t yet!). It’s not that I have anything against world travel. On the contrary, I find it fascinating. It probably has more to do with how I experience things best. Probably, although I haven’t tested it, I would prefer reading about a trip to the African wilderness than actually taking one.

Was there one place Cohen went that I would like to go? Maybe the houseboat in Burgundy, France. That’s my style of adventure. I wouldn’t mind seeing the Great Coral Reef in Australia, but is it actually something on my bucket list? Nah. I know I won’t get there. And anyway, my husband absolutely doesn’t want to fly in an airplane, and if I did drag him along somewhere against his wishes (and that would be pretty much anywhere), he’d drive me nuts. He’d console himself with large quantities of food. He’d talk. Constantly. What would I do to console myself, I wonder? Hmmm. I’d probably bury my nose in a book.

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